Valley Breeze

The North Providence Breeze 09-11-2019

The Valley Breeze Newspapers serving the Northern Rhode Island towns of Cumberland, Lincoln, Woonsocket, Smithfield, North Smithfield, Pawtucket, North Providence, Scituate, Foster, and Glocester

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6 NORTH PROVIDENCE PUBLIC SAFETY COMPLEX SEPTEMBER 11-17, 2019 | NORTH PROVIDENCE EDITION NORTH PROVIDENCE – Det. James Watts said it's incredible to him that his role on a task force that investigated search engine Google has led to the creation of the new North Providence Public Safety Complex. Because North Providence kept Watts on the Food and Drug Administration task force, the town took home a $60 million share from a $500 million state settlement with Google in 2012 after the investiga- tion revealed the company had engaged in illegal online advertising practices in Rhode Island. In addition to more than $27 mil- lion spent on the new safety com- plex, $20.6 million went to fill a hole in the Police Department's pension fund, "which is absolutely amazing as well," Watts told The Breeze. "I was put in a position to suc- ceed," he said. "You couldn't fail on that task force." Though Watts, who now works for the East Providence Police Department, is precluded from talk- ing about the specifics of the case, he did say he worked with a great group of people. If it wasn't for the Google settlement, Police Chief David Tikoian said he feels fairly certain that the town would never have seen its new public safety com- plex come to fruition. "It's given police and first respond- ers 21st-century equipment and a facility to do their jobs," he said. Though the Google investigation predated Tikoian, who joined the NPPD in 2017, he said that Watts was an "asset to this department" and he takes pride in saying Watts worked for him before retiring from the department. "He was a consummate profes- sional and seasoned investigator," Tikoian said. "Any law enforcement agency would be lucky to have Jim Watts working for them." Mayor Charles Lombardi said he wants to publicly thank Watts for a great job and for his professionalism. When David Palmer, former act- ing chief for the department, rec- ommended Watts to serve on the task force, Lombardi said he asked Palmer for his advice and he said he recommended doing it. Putting Watts on the task force "was the right thing to do," Lombardi said. The mayor, who is excited for the new facility, said building it is one of the best things officials could have done for the town. He said town offi- cials wanted to build a structure so that the taxpayers would never, ever have to build another public safety complex again. "We're pretty much developed," he said. "We're not concerned about hiring another 20 officers. That's not the case." Watts was working narcotics for the NPPD when he was assigned to the task force, he said. The Glocester native said he spent an "amazing 21 years" with the NPPD. "They were nothing but good to me," he said. "I'm glad it worked out for everyone involved." By MELANIE THIBEAULT Valley Breeze Staff Writer melanie@valleybreeze.com $60 million man Watts glad for role in public safety complex NORTH PROVIDENCE – Since the announcement of a $60 million (technically it's $59,938,076.27) windfall from a Google settlement in 2012, police in North Providence have spent $57,141,815 of that on everything from fixing their pension fund to building a new safety complex. And though it might seem like all that money was used quickly, much of the spending will have a ripple effect for decades to come, including a lack of needed facility improvements, the planned sale NP Police have now spent $57 million of Google money By ETHAN SHOREY Valley Breeze Managing Editor ethan@valleybreeze.com See GOOGLE, Page 31 JAMES WATTS

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